"It's hard to get to where we got to tonight and they've been here so many times, it's difficult," Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said. "We need to stay at it and keep showing up and one day we'll punch through."
Kentucky is headed in the right direction. The Wildcats won their first regular-season SEC championship since 1982 and tied the school record for victories in a season.
"We had an incredible season," Walker said. "It's disappointing but we have a really good group coming back and we will be really good again."
Mitchell will have most of his team back next season. The Wildcats' coach put the Denver Final Four logo in front of the locker room before the year started as motivation for his squad. Now they can look toward to next season and making it to New Orleans.
"We'll keep knocking on the door and hopefully one day we'll get to the Final Four," Mitchell said. "Four or five years ago when these kids thought of coming to Kentucky, they weren't thinking about winning an SEC championship. I'm really proud of them, and what they've accomplished."
UConn raced out to a 9-0 lead and looked poised for another blowout. A quick timeout by Mitchell settled his team down and the Wildcats rallied to close within 23-21 on two free throws by Bria Goss. A jumper by Stefanie Dolson and 3-pointer by Hayes gave the Huskies a 28-21 advantage with 8:19 left.
Kentucky was unfazed. The Wildcats, who were constantly subbing fresh players, then went on a 12-2 run over the next three minutes as fouls started piling up on the Huskies. A layup by Goss and two free throws by Keyla Snowden gave the Wildcats a 33-30 advantage with 5:01 left.
The teams exchanged baskets and free throws the rest of the half. The two schools combined to take 27 foul shots in the first half with the Wildcats making all 14 of their attempts.
A'dia Mathies' two free throws with 2.1 seconds left tied the game at 39 before Kelly Faris caught the ensuing inbounds pass at half court and beat the halftime buzzer for a lay-in to make it 41-39 at the break.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.